NYS is business is being “PAUSED.” What is “essential business” under NYS Pause Order??

As you may be aware, New York City has seen both state and local governments issue orders within the last week hoping to curb the spread of the Coronavirus. It started with movie theaters and gyms. It then extended to closing bars and restaurants, allowing them only to serve food and drink to go. On Friday, March 20, the Governor issued a directive ordering “non-essential businesses” to suspend in-person operations. Many business owners and employees were left wondering – is my business an “essential business” under Governor Cuomo’s order?

The spread of the Coronavirus has led to governments all over the world scrambling to develop a response to help curb the spread of the illness while the medical world works on treatment. It’s been an unprecedented look at government preparedness to pandemic response.

Here in NYC, this last week was met with unprecedented closures. It started with theaters and gyms. Then the closures spread to restaurants and bars. We can’t overlook the decision to close all public schools down.

On Friday, March 20, Governor Cuomo issued a directive directing that, starting Sunday, March 22, 2020 at 8pm, all “non-essential businesses” must suspend their in-person operations. That means that, for businesses considered non-essential, you cannot open the physical premises, if there was one, to the public or to employees. Everyone, employees and customers alike, are directed to stay away from these businesses.

This is not to say that the business cannot function. If a business is able to operate virtually, then they are encouraged to do so.

What is an ‘essential business’?

Being aware that non-essential businesses must suspend in-person operations as of Sunday, March 22, 2020 at 8pm is one thing. It begs the question, though, of what is an essential business?

Fortunately, the Governor’s office gave some guidance as to what is an essential business. Your business is considered an essential business if it falls under one of the following categories:

1. Essential Health Care Operations, Including:

  • research and laboratory services
  • hospitals
  • walk-in-care health facilities
  • emergency veterinary and livestock services
  • elder care
  • medical wholesale and distribution
  • home health care workers or aides for the elderly
  • doctor and emergency dental
  • nursing homes, or residential health care facilities or congregate care facilities
  • medical supplies and equipment manufacturers and providers

2. Essential Infrastructure, Including:

  • utilities including power generation, fuel supply and transmission
  • public water and wastewater
  • telecommunications and data centers
  • airports/airlines
  • transportation infrastructure such as bus, rail, or for-hire vehicles, garages
  • hotels, and places of accommodation

3. Essential Manufacturing, Including:

  • food processing, manufacturing agents, including all foods and beverages
  • chemicals
  • medical equipment/instruments
  • pharmaceuticals
  • sanitary products
  • telecommunications
  • microelectronics/semi-conductor
  • agriculture/farms
  • household paper products

4. Essential Retail, Including:

  • grocery stores including all food and beverage stores
  • pharmacies
  • convenience stores
  • farmer’s markets
  • gas stations
  • restaurants/bars (but only for take-out/delivery)
  • hardware and building material stores

5. Essential Services, Including:

  • trash and recycling collection, processing and disposal
  • mail and shipping services
  • laundromats
  • building cleaning and maintenance
  • child care services
  • auto repair
  • warehouse/distribution and fulfillment
  • funeral homes, crematoriums and cemeteries
  • storage for essential businesses
  • animal shelters

6. News Media

7. Financial Institutions, Including:

  • banks
  • insurance
  • payroll
  • accounting
  • services related to financial markets

8. Providers of Basic Necessities to Economically Disadvantaged Populations, Including:

  • homeless shelters and congregate care facilities
  • food banks
  • human services providers whose function includes the direct care of patients in state-licensed or funded voluntary programs; the care, protection, custody and oversight of individuals both in the community and in state-licensed residential facilities; those operating community shelters and other critical human services agencies providing direct care or support

9. Construction, Including:

  • skilled trades such as electricians, plumbers 
  • other related construction firms and professionals for essential infrastructure or for emergency repair and safety purposes

10. Defense

  • defense and national security-related operations supporting the U.S. Government or a contractor to the US government

11. Essential Services Necessary to Maintain the Safety, Sanitation and Essential Operations of Residences or Other Essential Businesses, Including:

  • law enforcement
  • fire prevention and response
  • building code enforcement
  • security
  • emergency management and response
  • building cleaners or janitors
  • general maintenance whether employed by the entity directly or a vendor
  • automotive repair
  • disinfection

12. Vendors that Provide Essential Services or Products, Including Logistics and Technology Support, Child Care and Services:

  • logistics
  • technology support for online services
  • child care programs and services
  • government owned or leased buildings
  • essential government services

What if I think my business is an essential business?

There are likely many business owners that may feel that their business is an essential business. If you believe that your business is an essential business and should not have in-person operations suspended, you may apply for an exemption by clicking here to get access to the application.

You should also note that “any business that only has a single occupant/employee (i.e. gas station) has been deemed exempt and need not submit a request to be designated as an essential business.” So for any business with a single employee or operator, you MAY remain open and function as normal. If you have any further questions, you are encouraged to contact the Governor’s office, or visit the Governor’s website.


We are experiencing an unprecedented public health pandemic right now. It’s encouraged that we all do what we can to help stop the spread of the Coronavirus. The Governor has ordered that non-essential businesses suspend in-person operations. If you have any questions, please contact New York City or New York State directly for their most updated information.

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